UCI’s Super Smash Brothers Club Shines at CSL’s National Finals in Worcester


by | Aug 29, 2019, 2:30PM PDT

This time last week, members of UC Irvine’s Super Smash Brothers club, Smash at UCI, were 35,000 feet above the ground, traveling by plane to Worcester, Massachusetts, to participate in Boston’s largest esports festival.

The festival, dubbed Shine, is event planner Big Blue Esports’ most popular program, attracting 3,000 players to Worcester each year and netting more than a quarter of a million unique online viewers across three days of competition.

In addition to Shine’s spotlight events—tournaments in Melee, Ultimate, 64, and Brawlhalla—the Collegiate Star League (CSL) held its US Smash finals for four teams representing universities across the country.

With a prize pool of $15,000, the stakes were high—but nothing the members of Smash at UCI hadn’t seen before. As second-time qualifiers for the collegiate finals (they’d taken second place in 2018), the team was looking forward to bringing Shine another stellar performance.

“We had competed last year and really enjoyed it,” said Rafael Guadron, team captain and one of two players in Smash at UCI sponsored by Carnage Gaming, “so it only made sense to compete again.”

In preparation for their trip to Worcester, the members of Smash at UCI trained rigorously, attending tournaments throughout SoCal and practicing in mock tourneys at each other’s houses.

“We strive to do more and become more than before,” Guadron said, referencing the team’s motivation to train as hard as they did for Shine. “We of course love watching the top players of the world succeed, but what makes us inspired to improve are our own achievements.”

The team’s first match was against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), whom they beat 3-0 to advance from semis to winners finals. Despite the match’s intensity, Guadron and his teammates kept level heads:

“While competing, we focused on the task at hand and tried to beat every opponent we came across. At times when we were in a deficit, it was hard to not think about it, but we have dealt with such things before, so it was nothing new.”

In the winner’s finals, UCI faced off against UT Dallas (UTD), dropping into the losers bracket after a tough set that ended 0-2. Down—but not out—the team brought their best game to the losers finals, and came out on top with a score of 2-0 against NJIT.

After nearly three hours of competition, Guadron and his teammates had earned the chance to compete, once more, against UTD—only this time, $6,000 was on the line.


One might describe the grand finals that followed as intense, but that would be selling them short. Having battled their way out from losers, UCI stood in ample position to reset the bracket and take the collegiate title. All they needed to do was beat UTD twice consecutively.

A challenge, to be sure, but not impossible.

In the hours that followed, Guadron and his team fought harder than they ever had before, recognizing the stakes but not permitting pressure to break their stride. And their efforts paid off: They beat UTD 2-0, resetting the bracket and pushing the tournament into one, final round.

After a thrilling 15-stock bout that ended 4-0 in favor of UTD, Guadron and his teammates walked away with another second-place win, securing $3,000 in prize money for Smash at UCI.

Reflecting on the experience, Guadron says,

“This event definitely taught us that we need to do more than just compete: We need to study our opponents, learn their stats, and talk to each other about the strategies we’ll use to win.”

Guadron notes, specifically, that UT Dallas made use of coaches, spreadsheets, and data they’d compiled about other teams’ players.

“As a team comprised solely of players, we definitely were the underdogs, but we will take that knowledge into account and put in more time to research our opponents in the future.”

Now that this year’s collegiate circuit has drawn to a close, the team won’t be competing until next October, when CSL qualifiers open for the 2019-2020 season. But, Guadron says, he and his crew will be competing in the singles tournaments hosted by UCI every Thursday in the UCI Esports Arena—be sure to stop in if you want to see the team in action!

(Or, of course, if you want to congratulate them on their amazing performance at this year’s CSL finals.)

From left to right: Sergio “Lt. Serge” Salas, Daniel “Mega” Nguyen, Rafael “Rafi” Guadron, Dominic “T3Dome” Carone, Justin “Muskrat Catcher” Muskat, Landon “Soulx” Stubblefield, and Jovanni “Jovanni” Rivera.

Back in Person, Back in Action: UCI’s Overwatch 2021-2022 Roster


by | Oct 2, 2021, 2:42PM PDT

Today, UCI Esports is proud to announce our collegiate scholarship team to the public. After an arduous deliberation process, our varsity team this year is composed of 11 members, some old, some new, to play for us in Activision Blizzard’s official collegiate circuit.

Formally unveiling the roster for this year, the UCI Esports Overwatch team is composed of:

Tank: Arthur “Mashiro” Tang, Phillip “PG1” Rodriguez, and Sean “Románi” Cook.

DPS: Jonathan “Light” Chao, Eugene “Dash” Tai, Juanwei “Fade” Hu, and Michael “Excal” Kim

Support: Mitsutoshi “Supreme” Sato, Tianyi “Helljudge” Chen, Victoria “Saffrona” Winn, and Bruno “KapGod” Moebest.

Overwatch games start October 1st, as UCI Esports begins the Overwatch Collegiate Homecoming 2021 preseason.

“This year’s team is one of mixed experiences, perspectives, and diversities. Some players have played professionally, others have come from high school scouting grounds, some are pick-ups straight from the competitive ladder. But every player has been ranked amongst the top 500 in North America, every player here has had some sort of overachiever, leader, or exemplar. Our team this year has been the best it has ever been, and we’re really excited to show the world how deep their potential goes. We want to make our community proud, so please follow us on our journeys, watch, and root for us as we compete.” – Ronald Ly, Player Support Coordinator

Goodbye and Good Luck: Cheers to Our New Graduates


by | Jun 18, 2021, 12:00PM PDT

At UCI Esports, we are most proud of our students who enter our university curious, motivated, and ready for their new chapter. In our short time together, we are honored to provide mentorship and watch them learn and grow before they are sent out into the world.

While we are not able to cheer them on in person as they cross the commencement stage, we offer this tribute to the incredible Anteaters who have generously shared their special gifts with us.

Please join us in congratulating our graduating seniors as they level up and prepare for their next adventure!

Arena Staff

Yonael Taye

I have met few people as charismatic as Yonael, who has always been one of the most supportive and encouraging members of our stellar team of arena staff! I remain impressed and inspired by his involvement and passion in his various campus communities, from hip-hop dance to gaming. I know with confidence that no matter where he’s headed, he’ll leave a trail of friendships and positive energy.

Kathy Chiang

Marcus Wong

It’s been a pleasure to get to know Marcus through his involvement in our arena, the VR club, and the fighting game community. I admire his knack for coming up with creative solutions and working with technology, helping him stand out while making all of our lives a bit easier. I look forward to witnessing more of his innovations and the mark he will leave on his various communities as he moves on to his next adventure!

Kathy Chiang

Tony Wu

Who doesn’t love Tony? Even when he could be considered a newcomer to our staff team, he was always looking for ways to help and improve the experience of our visitors and other team members. As more staff joined our ranks, Tony was constantly recognized as a terrific role model, demonstrating a certain leadership style that resonated well with everyone in the Esports family. I’ll never forget the dedication and care with which he works, and I’m sure he will be successful wherever he lands.

Kathy Chiang

Casters

Spencer Kammerman

Spencer was one of the most energetic casters the program has ever had the pleasure of working with. His knowledge of the professional and collegiate League of Legends scene gave everyone of his casts a professional look and feel. On top of that, his memes and jokes made every viewer omegalul in chat. The value he brought to each stream will not be forgotten and I hope to see Spencer casting in the big leagues one day if he so chooses.

Damian Rosiak

Michelle Tran

Michelle consistently brought great analysis about the meta in overwatch to our streams. Her friendship with the other casters brought a friendly tone to each stream that all spectators took note of. It’s safe to say that she had a huge impact on our stream team over the years and we wish her all the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Damian Rosiak

Interns

Nick Gasparyan — Digital Marketing

Few have given as much to the program as Nick has. Since the beginning, Nick has helped shape the foundation for the program’s media presence and branding. Fulfilling a myriad of roles, Nick took his vision for the program and led us with his endless well of passion and ambition. Always willing to go above and beyond, we’re so grateful to Nick and his years of dedication. The growth he’s shown here is only the beginning of his adventure, and I eagerly await news of his next accomplishments.

Hillary Phan

Vivian (Vi) Lam — Social Media

It’s difficult to name someone more driven than Vi. With her wealth of experience and go-getter attitude, Vi helped us keep afloat on our social media during our fully remote school year. She’s a natural at staying organized and professional, and it’s been a pleasure watching her grow from arena staff member to accomplished intern. She’s always hungry for improvement, be it in her work or the many creative hobbies she’s got in her back pocket. We appreciate all she’s done for us and will always be cheering her on.

Hillary Phan

Allison Le — Team Manager

Allison appeared right as we needed a new team manager in October 2018 and quickly blew us away with her leadership and drive. She quickly became an indispensable part of the team, streamlining workflows and solving problems before they arose. Allison is a consistent source of good cheer in the arena, breaking out into song or cracking a joke. It’s been an honor to work alongside her and watch her develop into the unstoppable force she is today. I’m so proud of her and will miss her dearly, but can’t wait to watch her take the world by storm.

Hillary Phan

Anny Tran — Graphic Design

Anny joined us a year ago, dazzling us with her graphic design style and expertise. During a time where we relied on our graphics department more than ever, Anny rose to the challenge and produced flawless designs, supporting us as we adjusted to operating completely online. Our crispy graphics and media are thanks in large part to Anny and her consistently professional quality work. She’s a joy to have around, and we’ll miss having her on our graphics team. Wherever she lands next will be lucky to have her – congrats!

Hillary Phan

Yigu Yu and William Poon — Partnerships

Yigu and William came to us in the spring of 2020, looking to help our program and get additional esports experience. As we shut down for COVID, they did an incredible amount of work analyzing arena use, building out our sponsor relation strategy, and building out additional products for the program. They brought energy, initiative, professionalism, and warm personalities to the role. They will leave a lasting legacy and we could not be more thankful for their time with us.

Mark Deppe

Scholarship Players

Youngbin Chung — League of Legends

Youngbin’s graduation is incredibly meaningful to our program. Arriving at UCI in the fall of 2016, he was one of our original recruits. He grew from a talented athlete to an incredible student, leader, and mentor. It has been such a pleasure to watch him grow competitively, academically, and personally over the past five years. He has taught me an incredible amount and I am eternally thankful for his contributions and friendship.

Mark Deppe

Daniel Mishkanian — Overwatch

We’re going to miss Dani! In many ways, he was the heart and soul of our Overwatch team. He led by example, grinding out solo queue, and keeping up with Overwatch, even when it wasn’t fun. His energy and humor motivated his teammates and coaches and we’re very sad to see him go. He was the foundation of a wonderful team culture and we are so thankful for his contributions. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Mark Deppe

Evan Phu — League of Legends

Evan joined our JV team in 2016 during his first year and quickly made a name for himself in the top lane. In his sophomore year, he stepped into a starting role for the varsity team and quickly became a star. His growth – from inexperienced rookie to a dominant force – is a major reason why we won the 2018 LoL championship. Aside from competing, Evan was a stellar student with a great sense of humor. We’re going to miss seeing him on campus and in the arena.

Mark Deppe

Sean Uehara — League of Legends

Sean was an awesome member of the League team and a great contributor to our program overall. Not only was he a dominant mid Rumble, he was an excellent student and helped tutor teammates and other UCI students. After hearing about a time-intensive data challenge, he wrote up a script to automate the process and saved many hours of staff time. Despite all his talents, he remained friendly and humble. He’s got a great future in front of him.

Mark Deppe

Triumphs and Trials: Our Competitive Year in Review


by | May 7, 2021, 7:00AM PDT

College League of Legends

The UCI Esports League of Legends team ended their 2021 collegiate season early with a 4-2 record in the regular season, unable to qualify for the Western Conference Playoffs.

This year’s Western Conference consisted of 49 collegiate teams, with the top two teams qualifying for the national championship.

UCI Esports fell to 5th seed Cal State Fullerton during week 3 of the six-week regular season and to 1st seed University of British Columbia during week 6. This marks UCI Esports’ first time not qualifying for the Western Conference playoffs since 2016.

The League of Legends roster underwent a significant overhaul this year, bidding farewell to graduating players Avi Behar and Jeffrey Du and welcoming four new rookies.

“We’re going through a building year right now,” stated David “Hermes” Tu, head coach of League of Legends. “There are big shoes left to fill considering the legacy we have here at UCI. But I’m confident that with our rookies gaining more experience, we can reclaim the throne as leaders in the Western Conference.”

UCI’s League of Legends team will continue to develop its new talent for the remainder of the 2021 academic year. After the season, they recently competed in the Upsurge Premier League against rival collegiate teams Maryville University and the University of Texas, Dallas.

Overwatch Collegiate Championship

On April 10th and 11th of this year, the UCI Esports Overwatch team ended their 2021 competitive season, finishing strong in the top 4, making it to the semifinals.

The Overwatch Collegiate Championship is Activision Blizzard’s official tournament circuit designed and purposed for college teams to compete against each other through a multi-layered tournament spanning the academic year.

In 2021, the tournament had a whopping 304 teams, 2500+ players, and 227 unique schools across the United States and Canada duking it out for their slice of the $48,000 scholarship prize and recognition as the best in North America.

Our team practiced, studied, and competed fiercely from start to end, leaving national swiss with an impressive score of 9-1 and seeding 6th nationally.

During the playoffs, UCI Esports bested 27th seed GMU, 11th seed Boise State, and 3rd seed Bellevue University on their way to the top, meeting 2nd seed Maryville University in the semifinals. Maryville would proceed to play in the finals against Northwood University and win, cementing themselves as the champions of this year.

Concerning the team, their performance, and the season as a whole, this is what UCI Esports’ coaches had to say.

I am so privileged to have been able to work alongside such hardworking and tenacious student-athletes. Our players this year truly gave it their best, their hearts were truly in the game and with each other, and that’s all we ask for. With a sample of victory, our team was so close to the precipice, and they’re hungry to give it another go next year with renewed confidence and the solid foundation we’ve built this year.

Ronald “Renanthera” Ly

I’m incredibly proud of our players for the resilience they’ve shown throughout the season. Like any other team this year, life has thrown a lot at us, and we’ve persevered to be able to deal with it and still push towards being a top collegiate team. I’m thankful for all of their hard work and especially the environment they all help to create. I look forward to every practice and match knowing we’re all in it together and propping each other up to succeed as a team.

Michael “The” Kuhns

UCI Esports closed out the season as the #1 school on the West Coast and 3rd-4th across all of North America.

Final Words

Regarding the program’s competitive year as a whole, we asked our director for a few words.

I am very proud of the program and our work during this very strange year. All of our coaches have worked tirelessly this year to cultivate a community and a culture focused on caring for one another, playing for their teams, and making those connections palpable despite the global pandemic. Our League of Legends team has gone through a tough rebuilding year, and we’ve crafted a strong foundation for the next. Our Overwatch team ended the best in the west, but I know our players and staff aren’t going to be satisfied with just that either. We’re already planning and plotting for what comes next, and it’s beautiful to see the teams already hard at work preparing for success next year.

Mark Deppe